The “Climate Change Affects Us All” Myth
Like many myths, the myth that says that Climate Change will affect us all is based on some degree of truth. But it is also somewhat unhelpful if we are to understand the imperative to act. We in Britain are already likely to fare much better than those elsewhere in the world, for instance Tuvalu, where the danger of total landmass submersion is now so great, they’ve been forced to act much more decisively than anyone in Europe has managed thus far.
To first understand the problem with this myth we perhaps need to examine a political force that makes little sense to many people: post-politics. Within normal political wrangling, a situation is up for dispute, and conflicting priorities help form different sides to the argument. It is generally acknowledged that Pharmaceutical corporations and the NHS and other healthcare bodies will have different ideas about how much a drug should cost, for instance.
But some issues have been moved into an area which can broadly be defined as the Post-Political, and Climate Change is one of them. We are essentially told that Climate Change is beyond doubt, and the need to act is beyond doubt, therefore there cannot be anywhere near as much debate to be had. The problem is, there’s plenty of debate to be had, and many of the solutions on the table either don’t show enough signs of working or they will only work for the world’s richest. The debate, therefore, should not be treated as if its already over.
The view from the President of Tuvalu’s office must be quite stunning. As leader of a nation made up of atolls, tiny slivers of land in the pacific most often only a meter high, his office is basically just up the beach. But when you know that Climate Change will result in a sea level rise enough to permanently flood your entire nation, its kind of life or death. We’re not talking about bits of Norfolk coast falling in, a few housing estates being sacrificed, or a hose-pipe ban here and there, we’re talking full scale obliteration of a nation and its heritage and culture. Quite frankly, they’re fucked.
The discrepancy makes a huge difference. Yes, everyone will be affected by Climate Change, but the magnitude of effect is so vast as to make the future suffering of the UK almost insignificant. In other words, Gordon and Barack will never feel the pain Tuvalu’s population faces, and therefore are understandably less hasty in their actions. Of course action is required, that debate finished, we’re in the post-Political realm here, and everyone should get behind the solutions they propose.
But many of the solutions they propose will do nothing but hurt the people of Tuvalu, both in their failure to secure enough decrease in Carbon usage, which would mean very nearly Carbon Neutrality, or in their tendency to lock the poorest populations of the world into strict models of consumption, whereby they are not at liberty to find “indigenous solutions”, instead facing long contracts with Western Companies who demand large payments (relative to local GDP) for fixing the technology we deem to be suitable to their needs.
It should be noted that the fall down in Brown’s £60billion conversion fund is that essentially he wants to create a fund for the poorest countries to spend on buying Western products such as wind turbines and the like. He’s not talking about putting £60billion into the economies of the poorest countries, he’s talking about investing in our economy and tying Africa, Asia and Latin America into an even more oppressive structure than the debt structure many of us have spent so long campaigning about.
The myth that I began this article with is simply not true: Britain will be one of the last parts of the world to become uninhabitable, and Western Europe no less resilient just by pure geography as well as by current technological development. When people use the argument that everyone will be affected by climate change, they’re effectively denying that the scale of destruction will be any worse anywhere else. The problem might be global, but it is also acutely targeted on specific people, and they are not us, and we should not use our minimal suffering to justify their enslavement to our solutions.
Instead, it is important to challenge politicians to realise that the debate around solutions is still very much a happening, current issue. We are no where near solving the Climate Crises, and are rapidly heading away from the most just solution available to us.